Can This Marriage Be Saved? We Only Talk Online

June 9, 2011 at 11:43 am , by

1111_Final2Texting, emailing and chatting online with your spouse each day can be a great way to stay connected (and remind him to walk the dog and buy some TP). But when face-to-face conversations are completely replaced with digital ones, your easy solution becomes a big problem. Heidi, a high-earning management consultant with two preteen kids, and her husband, Brett, a part-time paralegal, only communicate via texts and emails while Heidi’s away for work.

Heidi’s side It’s too tough to find the time to call while she’s away all week, so texting and emailing are perfect solutions. She’s in constant contact with her husband, sometimes sending 15 messages in a day, yet Brett still accuses her of ignoring him. Yes, they’re short and to the point, but what does he want, love letters? Things have to be done while she’s away and if Heidi doesn’t remind him, it won’t happen. She feels horribly guilty that she’s missing her girls’ childhoods but she’s the breadwinner and has no choice. She bought her girls cell phones to keep in touch, which Brett mocks as “teleparenting,” but it’s the best she can do. She’d love to work less if her husband would find better employment, but since he won’t help lighten her load, he needs to stop criticizing her about it.

Brett’s side Their marriage is just not Heidi’s priority anymore. If he were away for work, he’d make time to call, so he can’t understand why she won’t. She’s a workaholic who’s afraid of having a real conversation, even though they fight more now than they ever have. His wife speaks to him like an employer issuing instructions, so if he gets an email with a subject that sounds like a directive, he doesn’t even read it. He can’t find a full-time job, but at least part-time work lets him be there for the girls, so why push the issue? When Heidi gets home from a trip she doesn’t act like a wife or a mom – she’s still in boss-mode. He misses the spontaneous, loving woman he married.

The counselor’s turn Heidi needed to reassess her priorities and realize it only takes a minute to make a phone call. But Brett had to step up, too: If he found full-time work, she could reduce her own hours and travel time and be more of the wife he wants. Heidi had to learn that she couldn’t run her marriage like a business, and she agreed to try calling Brett every morning and evening instead of texting him all day. It’s often hard for female breadwinners to go from work to home, but the micromanaging of the office backfires on the home front. To cut down on the constant texts about chores, they’ve set up a system to for Brett to know what needs to be done on his own. Heidi also agreed to have one entirely work-free weekend day. As she came to understand that she was taking Brett for granted and Brett learned to step up, and their marriage steadily improved.

Read the full story in the July issue of LHJ, on newsstands now!